Research Links Coffee to Heart Risks for Some
But Heart Disease Risk Still Affected by Many Other Factors
June 17, 2005 - Though several studies have shown that coffee may actually
be good for you, new research shows that too much java may be bad for some
coffee lovers' hearts.
For a nation fueled by Starbucks, studies suggesting that coffee drinkers
may be at decreased risk for several major diseases, including Parkinson's and
diabetes, is welcome news.
WebMD even recently reported on two studies from The Journal of the
National Cancer Institute showing that .
But there is also evidence that
, and a new
study from Greece seems to bolster the claim.
Researchers from the University of Athens found that coffee drinkers had
more stiffness of the major blood vessel of the body than non-coffee drinkers.
Decreased elasticity of major blood vessels is a risk factor for developing
heart disease like heart attack and stroke.
The findings are reported in the June 1 issue of the American Journal of
The researchers had already linked coffee drinking to increased indicators
of inflammation, one of the key mechanisms to the development of heart disease.
And they have also reported that combining coffee with cigarette smoking seems
to be much worse for the heart than smoking alone.
"The evidence regarding coffee is far less conclusive than it is for
smoking," study researcher Charalambos Vlachopoulos, MD, tells WebMD.
"But it still might be prudent for people who drink more than three cups of
coffee a day to cut down, especially if they have high blood pressure or other
risk factors for heart disease."
Previous studies evaluating coffee's role in promoting high blood pressure
and heart disease have been conflicting. Though some suggest a strong link,
others have found no link at all or even a health benefit to coffee
The latest research by Vlachopoulos and colleagues included 228 healthy
adults whose average age was 41. The researchers used food-frequency
questionnaires to determine how much coffee each study participant drank. They
took into account whether participants drank instant coffee, brewed coffee,
Greek-type coffee, cappuccino, or filtered coffee. They analyzed the data to
account for each cup of coffee containing 80 milligrams of caffeine.
They also measured blood vessel wall abnormalities -- wall stiffness, the
inability to expand and contract and a sign of unhealthy blood vessels.
Compared with people who did not drink coffee, people who drank two or more
cups of coffee a day showed more abnormalities in blood vessel function. Blood
vessel stiffness is an indictor of heart disease risk. The association remained
strong even after taking into account other heart disease risk factors like
smoking, obesity, and age.